Arianna Huffington Thinks America Is Voting GOP Out of Fear, Using 'Lizard Brains'

Americans are voting with their "lizard brains" and leaning Republican simply out of fear, according to Arianna Huffington. Although challenged by MSNBC's Joe Scarborough Friday that the 2008 election of Obama was out of fear, Huffington responded that it was driven by "hope" and that Bush won in 2004 because of fear.

Now Americans are now driven by fear to vote the Republicans into the House and Senate. "This is not a rational election," Huffington complained to MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Friday's "Morning Joe."

"People are operating out of fear and anxiety at the moment. And when they operate out of fear and anxiety, they operate out of what they call their 'lizard brains.' And 'lizard brains' are not susceptible to rationality," Huffington explained.

Apparently, our "lizard brains" are our primordial fearful reactions to a dangerous situation. Huffington described it in a 2006 Huffington Post column as when the amygdala – "deep in the brain...an almond-sized region that generates fear" – activates, the "lizard brain responds by clicking into survival mode."
 

Huffington added Friday that she is not trying to pit the term against Democrats or Republicans. "It has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats," she affirmed.

But the liberal columnist has thrown the term "lizard brains" around in the past, mostly to describe Americans voting Republican in 2004 and 2006 and Democrats who failed to stand up to Bush's Iraq War agenda. She also accused Hillary Clinton's 2008 primary campaign of fear-mongering.

Huffington referenced "lizard brain" on Joe Scarborough's MSNBC show back on May 6, 2007. On "Scarborough Country" she cast Democrats not opposing a Bush veto as possibly acting out of fear. At the time, President Bush had vetoed legislation that would bring home American soldiers in Iraq in one year, and certain Democrats did not vote to override the veto.

Huffington said in 2004 that "thanks to the Bush campaign's unremitting fear-mongering, millions of voters are reacting not with their linear and logical left brain, but with their lizard brain and their more emotional right brain" in voting Republican.

Right before the 2006 mid-term election, she cast the vote as a "referendum on fear" in a column for London's Sunday Telegraph. She added that the Bush administration "has used fear as its trump card" to cause "jittery Americans to succumb to their lizard brains and vote their fears."

In March of 2008, Huffington blamed Hillary Clinton's primary campaign as rooted in fear-mongering. Clinton experienced a resurgence due to "playing the fear card," Huffington wrote. "She found Karl Rove's voice."

A partial transcript of the "Morning Joe" segment, which aired October 29 at 8:12 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: I usually get these off-year elections right. I – The Hill has a contest, and I predicted the exact number of seats, and the exact Senate seats, and a lot of it has to do with gut. And my head says it's going to be 50-55. My gut pulls it down to the low-forties, because you think about a voter that goes on a swing voter, and they go and "I'm so mad at Obama, and I'm so mad at those Democrats, and that health care thing stunk. You get inside the voting booth, and a lot of people aren't like us. They don't follow this every day, and they sit there, and I just wonder how many people are going to go, "You know, I fired these people two years ago, they had the country for a decade, we're in two wars, the debt's higher than it's ever been, the economy crashed – god, do I want to hire them again? I think there may be buyers' remorse before they even take the car off the lot.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, Co-Founder, The Huffington Post: But you're being – you're being rational. And this is not a rational election. I mean, look at all the –

SCARBOROUGH: But don't get me wrong, I'm a conservative guy and I would vote conservative. I'm saying for the independent swing voters, though.

HUFFINGTON: But that's not what I mean. What I'm saying is that people are operating out of fear and anxiety at the moment. And when they operate out of fear and anxiety, they operate out of what they call their "lizard brains." And "lizard brains" are not susceptible to rationality. That's why the argument of "You just voted them out, why do you want to vote them in?" isn't going to cut it.

SCARBOROUGH: Now "lizard brains" – is that what Americans did in '08 when they elected a state senator President of the United States?  Was that fear?

HUFFINGTON: No! That was hope, that was hope.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh that's hope! So if a Democrat wins it's hope, if a Republican wins it's fear!

(...)

HUFFINGTON: It has nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. It's when people are operating out of fear, they don't actually pay attention to data.

SCARBOROUGH: Like 2008!

HUFFINGTON: 2004.

SCARBOROUGH: Like 2008! They were scared in 2008, so they elected a state senator President of the United States.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014